In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the New Jersey Association of REALTORS® (NJAR®) worked with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in response to the large number of New Jersey families who may need short- and long-term housing. Upon NJAR®'s suggestion, HUD has issued a new guidance document to encourage the use of unoccupied housing units designated for senior citizens to those who are under the age of 55 that have been displaced by Hurricane Sandy. This is similar to action taken by HUD following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to those who lost their homes in the Gulf Coast. Under this guidance document issued by HUD Assistant Secretary John Trasviña, senior communities can make their vacant units available to those under the age of 55 while maintaining their exemption from the Fair Housing Act. Under federal law, 80% of the units in a senior community must be occupied by at least one person over the age of 55. This guidance document will allow senior communities to admit evacuees under the age of 55 and not count them against this 80% calculation.
Under the terms of the guidance document, an evacuee is considered to be anyone who, at the time of Hurricane Sandy, lived in a county declared to be a disaster area and who was designated for individual assistance by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). All 21 counties in New Jersey have been declared as a disaster area by the federal government, meaning that any New Jersey evacuee affected by Hurricane Sandy qualifies for the use of a senior housing unit under this guidance document.
While HUD has issued this waiver to permit senior communities to allow evacuees whose homes were affected by Hurricane Sandy under the age of 55 to reside in their communities, it does not state that these communities have to allow those under 55 to reside there temporarily. The guidance document merely states that these communities cannot lose their federal exemption which allows them to restrict occupancy of 80% of their units to those over age 55. In addition, while senior communities can choose to limit the time an evacuee under age 55 may reside there, HUD encourages that evacuees be allowed to reside in such communities for as long as necessary.
The HUD guidance document also contains a question and answer sheet (see pages 3-6) regarding Hurricane Sandy evacuees residing in senior housing communities. If you have any questions regarding this guidance document issued by HUD, please contact the NJAR® Government Affairs department at (732) 494-5616.